7 Steps To Achieving True Authenticity

Authenticity is the opposite of shame. It reveals our humanity and allows us to connect with others. Shame makes us hide who we are, sacrifice our needs, and say yes when we rather not – all to be accepted by someone else. It warps our communication and damages our relationships so that we control, patronize, criticize, blame, deny, withdraw, attack, and make empty promises to keep a relationship and reassure ourselves we’re okay even when we don’t believe it.

Hiding Who You Are

For most of us, our self-doubt and hiding has been going on so long that by adulthood, we’ve lost touch with who we truly are. We’ve grown accustomed to behaving in certain predictable roles that worked in our more or less troubled families, in school, and in our work. In the process, we sacrifice a degree of freedom, spontaneity, vulnerability, and parts of ourselves.

Even if things look okay on the outside, if we’re fortunate enough not to be in an abusive relationship or one burdened by addiction or dishonesty, we may feel a malaise, an uneasy dissatisfaction and not know why. If we once shared vibrant love with our significant other or used to have a joie de vivre and hope for the future, we might feel trapped and wonder where our passion and enthusiasm for life went. What happened was, we started shrinking and stopped risking being ourselves.

Falling In Love

Often when we fall in love, we open up. Loving and feeling accepted in the eyes of our beloved catapults us out of our ordinary personality. We feel expansive and come alive. We rediscover our true self through the process of being vulnerable and revealing parts of ourselves that we don’t usually experience. Doing so is why romance makes us feel so alive.

Before too long, we discover things we dislike in our partner. Our feelings get deeply hurt, our needs conflict, we disagree and disapprove. In an attempt to make love last, we start keeping things to ourselves, withdraw, manipulate with words and deeds, or even try to change our partner into the person we imagined he or she was. As things pile up, the risk of being vulnerable and honest with each other looms larger. Even if words of love are spoken, passion and intimacy have vanished. Couples yearn for connection, but feel empty and lonely without intimacy, due to their fear of rejection and loss. We endure, or if the relationship ends, we hurt. Breakups can activate shame, chip away at our self-esteem, and raise our defenses, making being vulnerable again all the more risky.

Authenticity Requires Courage

Authenticity and intimacy require courage. Each move we make toward authenticity risks exposure, criticism, and rejection, but facing those risks also affirms our real self. There’s no question that rejection and loss hurt, but paradoxically, risking vulnerability makes us safer, and our defenses weakens us. Healing our shame, building self esteem, autonomy, and our ability to be assertive and set boundaries can make us feel more secure. When we’re authentic, it invites our partner to do the same. It keeps love alive, and we’re more likely to get our emotional needs met. We not only feel stronger when we’re honest, it begins to heal our shame. It also avoids the myriad of defenses and the misunderstandings and conflicts that they create.

Sharing our vulnerability with others requires courage twice. First we must be honest with ourselves and be able to feel our emotions and identify our needs. Some of us have become numb to our feelings and are clueless about our needs if they were shamed childhood. When one feeling is unacceptable, they all more or less shrivel. As a consequence, we start to shut down our aliveness. When we don’t acknowledge our needs, they won’t get met.

1. Identify Your Feelings and Needs

The first step is being able to name what we feel and need in order to communicate effectively. People often say that something made them “upset.” I have no idea whether they were angry, worried, or hurt. Emotions can be confusing. For example, often hurt masquerades as anger, resentment camouflages guilt, rage conceals shame, and sadness covers anger.

A key symptom of codependency is denial, including denial of feelings and needs (especially emotional needs). Being authentic with our rage that’s really a defense for shame damages our relationships and pushes others way – usually the opposite of what we really want. Similarly, if, like many codependents, we believe we should be self-sufficient, we might not honor and ask for our needs for closeness or support. As a result, we end up feeling lonely and resentful. Journaling is a great way to decipher our true feelings. Developing an emotional vocabulary helps us be understood, be better communicators, and get what we want and need.

2. Honor Your Feelings and Needs

We must be able not only to acknowledge, but also honor our feelings and needs if we’re going to risk exposing them to others. Many of us judge our feelings and needs, like pride or anger and affection or intimacy. We’re also unaware of the shame that conceals and derides them. Working with a skilled therapist will help you be able to feel again and accept your feelings and needs without self-judgment.

3. Improve Your Self-Esteem and Boundaries

It takes courage again to take the ultimate risk of sharing what we feel and need. Without self-esteem and boundaries, we take things personally and collapse into shame. Our prickly defenses immediately get triggered and destroy the emotional safety we’re trying to create. On the other hand, we derive courage from risk-taking. Taking the leap to be vulnerable builds self-esteem and empowers us. When we raise self-esteem and connect to ourselves, our boundaries improve. Flexible boundaries also enable us to discern when, where, how, and with whom we’re vulnerable. We’re aware that we’re separate from others and are able to allow their reactions.

4. Learn to Be Assertive

There are constructive and destructive ways to communicate our vulnerability. Most of us lack those role models from our families where communication is learned. Developing assertiveness skills not only builds self-esteem, but enables us to communicate in effective ways that promote connection. This is especially important when we want to share “negative” feelings about things we dislike or don’t want. Additionally, when we’re able to set limits and say “No,” we’re more generous when they say it to us.

5. Nurture Yourself

We can’t control other people’s reaction, so we also must know that we can nurture and sustain ourselves. This increases our autonomy. Most codependents don’t have good parental models of nurturing. Having supportive relationships and the ability to comfort ourselves make us less codependent on others. It’s also part of healing shame and building self-esteem. Taking reasonable risks builds self-esteem and autonomy, too.

6. Heal Shame

Developing self-acceptance required for authenticity may necessitate reviewing the messages and abuse from your childhood. Growing up in a dysfunctional family, many of us have internalized shame. A therapist can help guide you to challenge and cut through the dark cloud of false beliefs that hangs over you, undermining your self-worth.

7. Get Support

Working with an experienced psychotherapist is generally necessary to undo our old negative programming and support us in trying new behavior. Attending Twelve-Step meetings helps. Once we start living authentically, whether or not we’re in a relationship, we regain our zest and joy of living.

This Is How You Heal After Trauma

Trauma is usually defined as an incident where you experience physical or emotional/psychological damage. How trauma affects you varies greatly based on whether it is physical or psychological. Physical wounds heal, we can see improvement, we can feel it, but when we go through psychological trauma sometimes we inadvertently delay healing.

As someone who has gone through mental and physical abuse for a number of years, I was wounded, damaged, and skeptical of other human beings. After the traumatic period of my life ended I still had gaping emotional wounds that kept me from living a full and happy life. I kept to myself, I was deeply afraid of letting other people close to me. I was constantly anxious. I felt weak, I felt powerless, and when I would catch myself thinking of the years I spent living a lesser life because of my trauma – I felt shame.

The problem with how we teach people to deal with negative feelings and experiences is we tell them to get over it. We tell people to ignore their trauma and emotions, we instruct them to focus on the good things in their lives. However, when we advise our kids to “get over it”, we are essentially teaching them not to deal with their negative experiences and instead carry around emotional baggage that we think they should ignore.

I know people mean well when they tell you to focus on the good – unfortunately, when they do that they are asking you to not heal.

I spent many years lugging around my emotional baggage while not understanding why I acted the way I did, why I attract the people I attracted, why I was anxious and frightened – or why I felt stuck. I lived in limbo for a number of years before I realized my obsession with physical wellness was my effort in trying to heal the emotional wounds I’ve been ignoring.

I didn’t feel whole and healthy – I was tired and exhausted all the time.

I am not sure if it was through my meditations or prayers that my answers came. I am not sure if it was just age and wisdom that aided in my discovery of my emotional wounds, but it became painfully clear I wasn’t doing what I needed to do in order to feel alive again. I wasn’t even sure if I have ever felt alive up to this point.

I understood that my life depended on ridding myself of the baggage resulting from trauma, and I would have to face the pain head on. I knew that I needed to be in a place to handle the ramifications of bringing up old issues that were lurking beneath the surface. Running from my pain or obsessively trying to pursue physical wellness without gaining emotional wellness would leave me spinning my wheels forever.

The first thing I did to deal with my emotional trauma was assess my ability to relive the experiences.

When we face horrific memories we have to be ready to walk through the trauma all over again. We will open up those memories to actually be processed, dealt with, and then resolved. The first step is confronting your experiences, the wounds, the words, all the times I was hurt and belittled.

I had to be honest with myself about my ability to deal with some of these situations, and honestly, it has taken years of going through one experience at a time. I couldn’t face all of them at once, it would have driven me over the edge into an abyss of despair – it would have been too much to bear. For many of us, we should seek out professional help to deal with all of the emotions and pain that will bubble to the surface. Having a person who knows how to help you through the process is important so do not overwhelm yourself.

The second thing I needed to do was allow myself to acknowledge my pain.
We spend so many years acting like we are okay after trauma, we follow the advice of trying to get over it by ignoring it. However, the truth is when we acknowledge our pain we face it head on. We gain control by being able to admit what happened to us and how it impacted our lives.

What I did personally, I went back to the moments that wounded me. When working through my experiences I saw my abusers in my mind, sometimes I would relive the traumatic experience – other times I would just feel the impact of the trauma emotionally. In talking about my experiences I feel I have taken control of my life again.

It was an excruciating process. It is painful to admit that you are still hurt, that you’ve been hurt, and that the healing hurts. I went back to emotionally feeling like a child, and I felt bad for this young me who endured so much. I even felt sorry for the abusers who were so wounded themselves that they had to place their pain onto another human being.

I cried, I felt sorrow, I felt lost, I felt the sting of loneliness, I tasted the bitterness and hate for the people who hurt me. I allowed myself to feel all these things for the first time. I spent so many years of my life ignoring the past, making excuses for it, and pretending that I was okay. Finally letting those emotions come to the surface after I’ve shoved them down for so long was freeing. It was also very exhausting.

A day or two after dealing with a traumatic memory, I felt the freedom of actually dealing with my emotions and acknowledging the things that happened – I felt much lighter. I am human, I need to feel the things that happen to me. I cannot just shut myself off from my experiences. When we go through difficult situations we are made to hurt, to grieve, and to move on.

After I worked through my emotions and sat with them for a little while, I began the process of forgiveness.
Some people who have hurt me I still live and deal with to this day – these are the people I am sure have no clue how their actions crushed me or affected my life. However, to fully move on and regain control over my life, I needed to forgive them. The problem with our perception of forgiveness is we are afraid that it gives people license to hurt us again.

I will boldly declare that is not the case! We have the power to lessen their impact on our lives. When we are in a situation to deal with a person who wounded us, we do run the risk of being hurt again, but we have the power to face the emotions, process them, and go through the steps of releasing our pain. We don’t have to give them years of our lives over their reckless words or actions.

I’ve also had to forgive people who were major abusers who did more than hurt my feelings. They hurt me deeply – psychologically and physically. I feared for my life. I couldn’t sleep for months. I was afraid of them finding me and hurting those I loved.

How could anyone possibly forgive someone like that?

Honestly, it was a process. If a person hurts you to that degree, you do yourself a huge favor by not going near them ever again, and then forgive them from a distance. You take the pain they put you through and you let it all go – release it into the universe.

You allow yourself to experience peace in knowing that just because it happened once doesn’t mean it has to happen again. You visualize the trauma moving away from you. Speak your forgiveness out loud so you can hear it – share it with a psychologist, friend, or trusted family member. Forgive the experience for what it did to you.

Perhaps, you can give yourself the freedom of seeing how the experience added to your life.

Forgiveness allows you to heal while also opening you up to see how you’ve grown and changed as a human being. You aren’t less from your traumatic experiences, you’ve gained insight, wisdom, and compassion many could not obtain otherwise.

After extending forgiveness to all those around me, I then forgave myself. Yes, I may have not asked for the trauma, but I did spend years holding on to my pain by not sharing my experiences or moving on from them. I had to forgive myself for holding myself back and not living because of my trauma. I didn’t do all that I could have done with my life because I was afraid to live. I had to forgive myself for not seeing my worth. I had to forgive myself for wallowing and being selfish with my suffering. There were a million ways I could have reached out for help, instead, I pushed any pain or uncomfortable emotions down deeper and I lived with very harmful habits and thought processes.

After I forgave all that had happened and those who hurt me, I began to live again.

It is amazing how facing your trauma, in turn, frees you and releases the experiences from your being. Forgiveness doesn’t give you amnesia of the events that happened in your life, but it does allow you to lose the weight of the pain. I carry my memories with me but the shame, guilt, and negative emotions associated with those memories are no longer there.

I now use my experiences to reach out to other people who have walked down the same path as me. I share my story so others know that there is hope for a future. You can go on and have healthy relationships, a family, friendships that are deep and meaningful. You don’t have to live bound to your traumatic past.

In life, we all walk down paths that can destroy our self-image, our trust in other human beings, and kill any hope we may have. My hope was extinguished for a long time. When I faced my trauma, processed the pain and moved through forgiveness, I was finally able to move on.

3 Factors That Determine An Unshakeable Sense Of Self-Worth

We are all worthy. Each and every one of us has an equal right to occupy our individualized space in the world for as long as we’re alive. There are those who radiate the goodness of their spirit and those who inflict harm on themselves and others. This is balance…whether we accept it or not, it’s not for us to judge. We can control the thinking, actions, and responses of only one person in our lives; ourselves. In the quest of self-growth, evolution, and the process of daily change, we can either become increasingly self-aware or decide to impede our process for a variety of reasons.

When we discover our  self-worth and actively maintain it, this is when we begin to live richer lives through equilibrium, reciprocated love, and inner contentment. This is our rite of passage in which we can take ownership with ease — if we choose to do so.

1. Acceptance

By accepting who we are right here, right now is half of the victory. If we take a moment and make a list of ten positive qualities and ten negative ones that currently reflect our sense of self, we can begin to see things more concretely—in writing. For every negative belief, make a notation on what can be done to transform this area into something more beneficial, productive, and ultimately worthy of improvement. If it causes great discomfort, it requires more acceptance yet more attention to make peace with it in order to heal. By accepting life’s circumstances and the people that caused us harm, we can forgive them; which in turn allows us to accept and forgive ourselves. The truth is we too have directly and indirectly harmed ourselves and others along the way. We may even go as far to let others know we forgive them and to ask those we have wronged for forgiveness, too. Whether it’s granted or not is of no consequence as long as we can be gentle on ourselves and self-correct.

2. Healing

Once we begin to reflect on the areas in ourselves that feel broken and are in need of care and nurture, all of those wounds begin to reveal themselves on the surface. This is good and honest. The more love we put into our inner holes, the more they begin to radiate a light that was once void in darkness. When we begin to self-heal, our physical, mental, and emotional layers become aligned and we can actively restore ourselves into healthy and strong willed individuals. When something or someone doesn’t add to our lives, we become more attuned to our needs and can make decisions to walk away for self-preservation. When something or someone enriches our lives, we can make the decision to embrace it. This is creating a system of self-protection through reasonable boundaries and limits; a true sign of self-love. The balance of giving and receiving is also another milestone in the discovery and maintenance of one’s relationship with self and others.

3. Living

Life is made in a series of ups and downs, a dynamic of beauty and brutality, and a sequence of events and relationships that are a part of our journey–for better or for worse. Once we realize that we are in fact the key players in the lives in which we are actively (or inactively) developing, we no longer accept the minimum that we either give/receive yet find natural movement towards achieving the maximum. Although there are many external factors that we seek out to “validate” who and what we are as individuals, it’s the internal factors that dictate our authentic image of self-worth. The higher the value we place on ourselves through gratitude and self-confidence, we live charmed lives in which we are our most prized possessions in mind, body, and spirit. Only if we believe, think, and feel it in unison, no one or nothing (including ourselves) can devalue us. This is because you and I both are invaluable… 

Use Your Pain As A Catalyst For Growth

Life is not just about love and happiness. Pretty flowers, sunny days, and colorful rainbows are not the only things we get to see in our lives. Work pressure, stress, anxiety, heartrending situations, gruesome injuries, and suffocating, depressive emotional traumas are as much a part of life, as are the enchanting smiles and the joyous laughter. But knowing this does not make facing these situations any easier.

One wouldn’t be wrong to say that life’s not about roses and lilies. It’s got thorns and stones, with occasional fireballs thrown in too. But, again, life is not about jumping over those thorns and dodging those fireballs. It’s about getting pricked, hurt, and burned and still looking for those roses and lilies.

Seems impossible, doesn’t it? It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible either. To get past the hurt we face in our life journeys, we need to come to terms with a few life truths.

At some point or another in our lives, we all get hurt. A dear one might say to us things that tear us apart, a loved one might do something that breaks our heart, or some other beloved might depart from our lives, leaving us hollow and sad. These instances happen in all our lives, irrespective of where we live and what our backgrounds are. Such situations don’t come our way because we are weak or fall short of some ideal. These hurts and heartbreaks aren’t our weaknesses; rather, they prove that we are human.

The first step to healing is to acknowledge that you are not alone in this world with your wounds. There are millions of others around the world who are facing similar wounds and defeating them day after day, night after night. Acknowledging this first fact of life will teach you to stay away from self-pity. Falling into the trap of self-pity is detrimental in two ways. One, you alienate yourself from your loved ones because you always see yourself through the victim glass. And two, you never get over the hurt caused to you. In short, you never heal.

Self-pity and constantly viewing yourself as the victim will glue you down more firmly to whatever caused you pain in the first place. Acknowledging that you are not alone and there are many others who are battling similar situations—or even worse—can set you free from the victim whirlpool.

The second most important step towards healing is to accept that your hurt is real, and it is normal and human to feel hurt. Many people tend to deny the feelings of hurt and instead lock their emotions away. These locked emotions fester in our minds at the subconscious level and affect our day-to-day dealings in life and our relationships with people around us. What we need is a way to let our emotions out of our system.

Letting go of hurtful and sad feelings is a two-step process. First, you need to accept that it is alright to be sad; it is human to be angry, hurt, frustrated, or depressed. These are natural human emotions. So you must learn to accept that it is fine to be vulnerable at times, it is only human. Second, you need to find a tangible, physical way to let go of these emotions. Suppressing and bottling up your sadness, your anger, or your depression will only lead to further heartache. When you push your emotions to the back of your mind, they do not wander away and disappear from your life. In fact, they are just incubating in your brain cells for a suitable time to jump back at you with full force.

Ignoring your emotions is not the solution. And neither is psychoanalyzing them to great detail. Thinking them over again and again only makes you relive the hurtful experience every single time. You run your emotions around in a vicious circle with no way to let them out. These feelings of sadness, grief, or even anger grow exponentially to alarming levels when you put them in these repeat cycles. Then one day, when you are least expecting it, they burst forth from your heart and potentially hurt you further and also those around you.

Instead, give them a way to get out of your system. We have established that there is no escapism when it comes to emotions. So think of ways to let them out. Keep a journal, a diary, or even a kind of vision board. These can give you real, concrete ways to express your emotions safely. Write or express your emotions in as much detail as possible. This is decidedly not going to be easy. Writing your feelings down or sticking them up on a vision board can seem to make you relive the experience and turn you miserable. But remember, it is important to channel your feelings out through some kind of medium, otherwise you will be reliving those horrors for the rest of your life.

All the emotions we feel, big or small, happy or sad, are all stored in the emotional control center of our brains. When an emotion or a thought finishes, it is supposedly removed from the cell storing it. The memory of the incident might remain, but the feeling associated with it is rubbed off. It is this finishing that we must aim for through our above-mentioned activities.

A feeling that stays in our mind stays in our body. That is to say, it begins to affect the functioning of our body in one way or the other. Our body’s biological functions, the organ systems, all get affected simply because we have let our feelings remain within us. After a time, our bodies will be under the control of these very emotions that are nothing but distressing and painful. Giving them a channel to move out now becomes even more essential.

Some might argue that thinking about these feelings, the incidents that led to the hurt, so on and so exhaustingly forth, will give you valuable wisdom. This wisdom is what will enable you to overcome or avoid similar scenarios in the future. And this is indeed true. But, excessive reflections will make letting go of the past that much harder. We need a way to stitch up our wounds and make the pain go away. What we do not need is to deepen the scars or numb the pain.

Hurtful, painful situations, both physical and emotional, will leave their scars. This is a reality. There can never be a scar-free existence. A life without troubles and its accompanying scars would mean one is as inanimate an object, like a piece of wood or a stone. This is unrealistic. An impossibility. The existence of these scars is proof of us being human. Learn to accept that your scars are a part of you. In a way, let your scars define you. Not because of the way they make you and the people around you feel, but as a testament to the fact that you went through something life-changingly traumatic and yet came out the other end, stronger and more resilient than before. Be proud of your scars, for they are proof of what life has taught you. Do not shun or shy away from the feelings of hurt within your heart. Instead of feeling embarrassed of your scars, embrace them and feel the difference. Remember, each scar you receive is like a jewel in your crown of life experiences. You are wiser, more mature, and more capable of handling things only because you experienced those very scars, however painful they might have been.

I express my emotions through art. After a painful experience, my journal pages resemble a mishmash of colors and words. But not everyone wants to turn to art or writing to handle their emotions. For those of you who find writing things out difficult or unhelpful, simply talking things over with a professional or even a trusted friend can be a huge help. The base motive is the same. Give your body ways to let go of the past and concentrate on the present. In our struggle to learn from past experiences so we do not repeat the same in the future, we ruminate on our emotions and let them grow instead of letting them go.

A wise man once said that hurt and anger stem from the past. Fear and worry are for the unseen future. When we let these emotions take control of our lives, we entangle our hearts and minds in a past that we can never change and in a future that we are not sure will arrive. And in all the jumbled mess, we miss out on experiencing the joys in the present.

Let us pause here for a moment and ponder how truly profound that is. Letting go of past wounds and not worrying about the future are two of the most difficult tasks a person can undertake, but reminding ourselves that it is our present that needs our attention can be the key to real peace. What we need is not an erasure of our feelings but a closure to our emotions. And it is indeed true that the more we avoid addressing our emotions and taking charge of them, the scarier it becomes. Each passing day that we ignore addressing our feelings and instead choose to immerse ourselves in self-pity and depression is like adding a step to heights we need to scale to overcome those emotions. The more we avoid them, the higher the ladder goes. Just thinking about our past experiences will not make them go away, unless and until we take practical, concrete steps to ensure they are truly out of our system.

Suppressing or distracting yourself with food, shopping, or movies will not work in the long run. They might help you disengage from your feelings and get your attention elsewhere for some time, but that is exactly how they help—for just some time. If you cannot face your feelings, you can never truly heal.

Get to know your feelings, immerse yourself in the experience, and come out wiser and stronger. This is true in the physical world too. Have you ever seen or read about an old-fashioned chimney sweep? Or the drain cleaner? Can you imagine their work getting done without them getting dirty?

Emotions are no different. If you wish to heal, then however unpleasant, you will have to plunge and lean into your emotions to clear them out of your system. Again, make use of tangible, real, and safe ways to let them out. This will help you grow and learn from your experiences and make you more resilient.

Once you have conquered your feelings and let go of emotions that trouble you, find your purpose. In every instance in our lives, even in the curveballs that life often throws at us, there is always a positive, a benefit, a silver lining to look for. Look for something—anything—positive that you can infer from a situation. However tiny the benefit, let your heart concentrate on that one positive that is going to come out of it. This is not you ignoring the hurt, instead it’s you looking for ways to make that hurt your own. After you have let your feelings out, immerse yourself in whatever goodness the situation gives you.

This is the power that tangible release of emotions can give us. And never forget to look for your very own silver lining. That one positive can become your motivation to look ahead into a brighter future and help you truly enjoy the here and the now.

You have experienced and handled your emotions, taken the first step to heal your wounds, and searched for the motivation for a happier future. Now is the time to forgive. Forgiveness is the key to finally closing the chapter and shutting the door. And this one step is the hardest of all.

Do not let the act of forgiving become a validation of the action that led to your hurt, or some form of disrespect to the experiences you have had. No, instead let forgiveness become your own gift for yourself. Forgive the person or people who have hurt you—not for their sakes, but for your own. When the person hurting us is a dear friend, a close family member, or anyone we hold dear, then feelings of “how could you do this to me? I will never forgive you!” are a common occurrence. But once you have crossed the aforementioned first, second, and third steps, forgiveness becomes a tad easier.

Many people make the mistake of making forgiveness the first step. When you haven’t dealt with your own feelings of hurt and betrayal, anger and sadness, there is hardly a way you will successfully and truly be able to forgive the person who caused it in the first place. It is impractical and impossible to accomplish. But once you have accepted your feelings, given them a way out, and looked for positivity in the situation, you will be in a far better situation to forgive the person and move on. Forgiveness will allow you to finally heal and embrace your hurt in the truest sense.

As humans, we are innately programmed to run from situations that give us pain, wound us, and give us grief. Running away and burying our heads in the sand will not solve the problems, nor will it allow us to heal. If we run away from one issue, we’ll run away from many more in the future. That is what will come to define us. Experiencing pain and grief is not our weakness; rather, running away is. Truly acknowledging our feelings might make us feel vulnerable, but we mustn’t overlook the fact that through it all, we are working to be stronger and more irrepressible by our emotions. Our inclination or inborn trait to feel hurt stems from our very human need to love ourselves more.

Healing from your wounds is not a thing to be ashamed of. It is not something to hide. It is what gives you leave to love yourself and take pride in your experiences. With each healed scar in your life, you are indeed adding a feather of wisdom to your repertoire.

You Have To Remind Yourself That You’re An Individual

You are an individual.

Do they spit lies?

You are told that you’re an individual when in reality everything around you and inside you screams of other people’s expectations and desires.

The minute we are born, parents subconsciously attach their happiness to us. They pick up outfits for us since we’re too young to even know what to wear or how to socialize. They raise us and teach us to adapt to the society, norms and culture that surrounds us. We give in. That’s how it is.

We are born with genes that determine a lot about our physical and sometimes even behavioural characteristics. What’s so original about being born out of centuries of handed-down genes? It’s not like I’m one of a kind, mutated human like the X-men. Even being a mutant comes with a lot of pressure for societal conformity. So I’m rather comfortable being a human, but sometimes I start to wonder: Does that spark of individuality truly exist within all of us, or is everything just a manifestation and effect of things around us.

After all that conditioning, what is actually left of us? Are we truly as individualistic as we like to think we are?

Go to college. Get a degree. Look for a job. Find your soul mate. Get married.

These are all meaningful steps in our lives, but it’s frightening how much of other’s aspirations are invested in us. Our lives are already engineered in advance by society; we are already working our way to that degree or that entry-level job. That’s how life works. It isn’t necessarily a dreary and wearisome journey; in fact it could be rather enjoyable depending on circumstances and personal preferences.

Many of us are studying for degrees not because it’s what we truly want, but merely because there might be a slight chance that our resume will stand out more in the near future when we are hunting jobs. A good handful of us are pursuing a job or degree we don’t want, primarily because it puts food on the table or because our parents might experience that joyous moment when we graduate with a post-graduate degree. We are not as separate as we think we are, our goals and professions are at times attached to other people and their well-being, joy or expectations.

But you know what?

There are rare occasions where we have the ability to tune into our individual being and soul. Some find it through meditation, music or joy in pursuing a hobby no one else knows about.

Others find it in that tiny moment where you’re standing in a crowd of friends and a single thought in your mind knocks down every argument they have to present in the ongoing debate about politics, culture or the economy.

Children who are too young to be aware of morals and consequences stand stubborn as stone against their well-informed parents about something they believe in. That is individuality.

Being put in social conditions and realizing what you feel or think stands apart from any expectation, conditioning or external factor. Experiencing a short moment of self-realization where what you think or feel holds more value than any economic, social or moral standard is being an individual. These tiny moments build up inside us every single day and help morph us into the person we are today or will be tomorrow.

It’s these glimpses within ourselves that allow us to realize we are alone and have the ability to retain our own mind and soul despite everything that is around us.

God Doesn’t Believe In Accidents

God is not a god of accidents. Things don’t “just happen.” We don’t meet people by accident. God puts them in our path for a reason, to build us up or to break us down. People come and go, and we learn something from everyone, though maybe not a major life lesson. Some may come into our lives to teach us how to braid our hair; others might show us something we didn’t know about ourselves. Some stay long, others just go. Some lessons are painful, some are painless, all are priceless.

Every journey is one of a kind. We get moments full of happiness, tearful experiences, unmeasurable fights, and moments that cannot be bought or forgotten.

Sometimes the best relationships become toxic. We want people out of our life, only to later want them back. We leave without explanations. We reach out and sometimes our efforts are in vain. We hurt. We cry. We fake it because we think we’re fine. We become devastated and fall but pick ourselves back up.

We go through ups and downs, but those aren’t accidents. We weep and face problems we never thought we would. We make stories and cling onto wishes. We make plans and lay them out thinking we know better than our creator. We make memories no one can take away. They are pieces that slowly begin to make us who we are.

Sometimes we end things and we put ourselves first, but we learn. We are all still learning. We love the wrong people and sometimes we never stop loving them. They leave a mark on us. No matter how much we hurt, one day the pain will help us look back and realize our struggles that changed us.

We have to keep running the race and moving forward, accepting changes in time and people. We have to look forward to the next round of memories. Our pain makes us tough. It shapes us.

Despite everything, we try to be thankful and grateful for every chance and person that came into our lives and the good feelings that will remain in our hearts forever. We let go, even if it is the hardest thing to do.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that love is not all about getting what you want and doing what’s best for you. Sometimes it involves letting go of something you love.

These aren’t accidents.

There Is Always A Breakdown Before The Breakthrough

I’ve had this topic on the tip of my tongue all day today because I have been fighting battles for so long that I believe are truly setting me up for greatness.

Obstacles that are molding me, teaching me and perfecting me for the job God has in store for me.

To all my twenty-something warriors, I know you are going through a fight in your life right now and sometimes you doubt you will make it.

You are fighting the urge to give up on school because you don’t have the grades to make it in your program or the stress is slowly beating you down day by day.

You are fighting people who get under your skin and cause you to shed silent tears because of their insensitivity.

You are fighting the demands of a job that pays little to nothing and being in an environment that sometimes overwhelms you.

You are fighting the loneliness that comes along with being single and you wonder when it will be your turn to love.

You are fighting to find yourself in a world that constantly tells you who you should be.

You are fighting feelings of envy that come up when you see others shining on social media when you have been working for years to have a come up of your own.

My dear Millennial, I know that you are always fighting.

I want you to know that not only are you not in this alone, but all of these breakdowns are preparations for your breakthrough, because character cannot be built by taking the easy road and diamonds go through the rough before they shine.

Everything you want, desire, and yearn for is being prepared for you right now. But how can you be the person you desire to be if you are still shaken by someone’s insensitive comments, by haters, by low self-esteem, by bitterness, envy, or negative thoughts and emotions?

How can you be that person when you are constantly shaken by every little thing?

Whether or not you believe in God or a higher power, whatever is out there wants you to be readily prepared for every single obstacle you will face in your life because there is a strength and a character shift that must take place before you can get to that place.

So even though you doubt, even though you toil, please DO NOT give up on yourself today.

Life will happen, bad days will come, people will try and bring you down, you will cry, and you will want to throw in the towel, but quitting is not an option because you are closer than you think you are to your breakthrough.

Because in life, the small things are no comparison to the grand scheme and that grand scheme is your purpose.

So with this in mind, know that you are bigger than the winds that threaten to shake you, to rile you up and to ultimately cause you to collapse.

YOU ARE BIGGER.

So, I don’t know who this is for. I don’t know who went through a breakup today, who struggled with thoughts of suicide, who is thinking of dropping out of school, who is fed up with being fed up and who is searching for answers in this thing we call life. 

I don’t know who is on the brink of quitting even before they have begun the race.

But if there is one thing I know for sure is that a few breakdowns will not stop you from rising yet again, because you have what it takes to get through this moment, this day, this week, this year and this life.

You might not feel like you do everyday and as an adult we don’t always have someone there to remind us.

So I will be the one to remind you today:

Rise, dear one.

Shine in who you are and don’t doubt that there is a great plan beyond all of your struggles.

Because even with some breakdowns, nothing, and I mean nothing, can stop your breakthrough.

8 Reasons Why Anxiety Isn’t Just In Your Head

Anxiety: a dreaded feeling you never want to experience. Yet, over 33% of the U.S. population will experience anxiety in their lifetime- that’s 40 million Americans. However, a holistic and functional approach to health can help explain why anxiety isn’t just in your head, while addressing and healing chronic anxiety disorders.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety describes an inner state of emotional turmoil. It’s a mental, and often physical, response to stress, fear, and worry. In many cases, anxiety is a normal and healthy reaction to unknown situations or danger. However, deeper trouble arises when anxiety becomes chronic and debilitating.

Different Kinds of Anxiety Disorders

When anxiety starts to negatively impact day-to-day activities, a formal anxiety disorder might be at play. The most common kinds of anxiety disorders, include:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Feelings of excessive anxiety and irrational worry
  • Panic Disorder (PD) – Panic attacks and feelings of intense fear
  • Social Anxiety Disorder – Fear and anxiety in social situations
  • Phobias – Persistent fear of an object or situation
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – Frequently repeating thoughts or actions
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – Fear triggered by a previous traumatic event
  • Major Depressive Disorder – Over two weeks of experiencing low mood

It’s important to work closely with a health professional to accurately diagnose and manage any anxiety disorder.

8 Uncommon Reasons Why Anxiety Isn’t Just In Your Head

Although anxiety can feel primarily like a mental or emotional issue, there is much more going on beneath the surface. Meaning, your anxiety isn’t only in your head. In fact, there are many root causes of anxiety. Some of the most common ones are:

Mental or Emotional Stress 

Stress comes in many shapes, sizes, and forms. And, it can be in response to previous life experiences. Some of the most common sources of mental/emotional stress are:

  • Learned behaviors as a child
  • The result of different parenting/attachment styles 
  • Childhood/school experiences
  • Isolation
  • Lack of healthy boundaries
  • Not enough downtime/rest
  • Social, financial, relationship stress
  • Negative self-image
  • Trauma

Ongoing and acute stress (due to finances, work, family, relationships, etc.) can also contribute to anxiety symptoms.

Thyroid Disorders

The thyroid gland affects every physiological function in the body. When thyroid hormones become imbalanced, consequential dysfunction occurs. This imbalance can have a major impact on mood regulation. For example: an underactive thyroid can result in low mood or depression, while an overactive thyroid can create anxiety or fear. Autoimmune thyroiditis can trigger both under and overactive thyroid symptoms.

A functional medicine practitioner can help you identify and address any imbalances within the thyroid through functional testing.

Hormonal Imbalances

In addition to thyroid dysfunction, other hormonal imbalances can be a primary root cause of anxiety disorders. In many cases, these physiological changes create a chronic stress response in the body, leading to chronic anxiety. The most important hormone imbalances to pay attention to, include:

  • Dysglycemia (blood sugar dysregulation)
  • Adrenal Issues
  • Caffeine sensitivity (ie. an intense adrenaline rush when consumed)
  • Estrogen

Inflammation

Inflammation is the root cause of all chronic disease, including anxiety. Common causes of inflammation include: unhealthy lifestyle choices, an inflammatory diet, chronic infection, acute sickness, autoimmunity, and more. 

In the case of anxiety disorders, cytokines play a starring role. Inflammation causes a dysregulation of cytokine production and can lead to cognitive imbalances, like depression and anxiety. More so, the concept of psychoneuroimmunology further explains the role of inflammation on the central nervous system and brain. GABA deficiency has also been associated with anxiety disorders. 

Gut Issues

Hippocrates once said, “All health starts in the gut.” Hence, poor gut health is a breeding ground for a host of health issues. Regarding anxiety, the following gut imbalances should be addressed:

  • Food Sensitivities 
  • Gut Infections (ie. Candida, SIBO)
  • Leaky Gut (or Intestinal Permeability)
  • Nutrient Deficiencies (ie. Vitamin B12, EFA Omega 3)

Brain Imbalances

Unsurprisingly, imbalances in the brain largely influence mood and anxiety. Common examples of brain imbalances, include:

  • An overactive mesencephalon (midbrain)
  • Excessive CO2 levels in the body
  • Increased amygdala function / limbic system activation
  • Underactive frontal lobes 
  • Neurotransmitter imbalances (ie. GABA deficiency)
  • Post-Concussion Syndrome
  • Vestibular, Balance or Eye Tracking issues

Environmental Toxins

Unfortunately, toxins are all around us. We find them in our air (pollution, mold, mycotoxins), food (pesticides, herbicides), water (heavy metals, pharmaceutical drugs, bacterial, parasites, viruses), cleaning products (chemicals, fragrances), cosmetics (endocrine disruptors), and more. Chronic exposure to these toxins in everyday life can greatly alter brain, immune and hormone function.

Socioeconomics

Various socioeconomic factors can play a role in anxiety disorders. The most common factors, include:

  • Financial burden
  • Systemic oppression
  • Lack of access to healthcare
  • Community safety
  • Discrimination, racism and bias
  • Cultural influences and expectations

It might feel like anxiety is all in your head. However, it’s clear that anxiety stems from other imbalances in the body. The key is to identify what is causing anxiety, so that it can be effectively addressed and healed.

How to Heal Anxiety (from a Functional Approach)

Anxiety can feel like a life sentence, but it doesn’t have to be. When looking at anxiety from a functional medicine approach, it’s important to understand and address the root cause, starting with:

1. Improving Gut Health:

You may not be able to change all external factors that contribute to anxiety. But you can somewhat control what you eat. An inflamed gut and brain will have a much harder time managing stress and calming anxiety. 

First and foremost, it’s critical to adopt an anti-inflammatory diet when anxiety is present. Minimally, this means removing inflammatory foods (ie. gluten, dairy, soy, sugar, corn) from the diet. However, for those with a chronic health condition, an autoimmune disorder or severe anxiety, the Autoimmune Protocol might be the best option. 

Additionally, it can be beneficial to include plenty of gut-healing foods in the diet, like:

  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Chamomile
  • Lemon
  • Green tea
  • Fermented foods
  • Bone broth
2. Practicing Mind-Body Exercises:

Clearly, the mind-body connection is strong. Practicing mind-body exercises is an effective way to address both chronic anxiety symptoms and acute anxiety attacks. Try these exercises to expedite healing:

  • Vagal nerve exercises
  • Deep breathing- Breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 2, breath out for 8, hold for 2, and repeat.
  • Deep pressure application- weighted blankets, hugs, massage, applying pressure to your own body

3. Implement Natural Remedies:

Naturally remedies, like supplements and essential oils, are foundational in functional healing.

  • Supplements- GABA deficiency is very common in those with anxiety. Precursors to GABA, like glutamine, magnesium, and zinc, can help the body naturally produce more GABA. Additionally, adaptogens, like ashwagandha, are helpful in regulating the nervous system and stabilizing mood. For those who are sensitive to nightshades, opt for eleuthero root, instead.
  • Essential Oils – Essential oils are an effective and enjoyable method of aromatherapy for anxiety. Specifically, Lavender, Wild Orange, Lemon, Ylang Ylang, and Melissa Frankincense have been shown to reduce anxiety and improve stress response.

4. Consider Therapy:

Arguably the most well-known treatment for anxiety is therapy. Various methods of therapy, like talk therapy, neuro-based therapies (EMDR), and energy psychology techniques can be beneficial. Explicitly, EMDR has been shown to help people heal from the past traumas and experiences that cause anxiety in the first place. 

Unaddressed anxiety can affect every part of your life. To fully heal from your anxiety disorder and get your life back, it’s necessary to take a root cause approach. And, sometimes, we need help doing so. 

Disclaimer:

*All content and media on ellestoj.com is created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice.

Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. Never disregard the advice of a medical professional, or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website.*

MODALITIES FOR HEALING EMOTIONAL TRAUMA

Emotional healing Techniques: We cannot Heal Physically without Healing Emotionally

Many of us go through life experiencing a whole host of traumatic things.  When we are young, there is an especially hard time dealing with any sort of trauma, whether it be abuse, the death of a loved one, constant bullying, or anything else that can impact our life.  Childhood trauma itself is linked to so many chronic illnesses (source), but in our society this never really gets addressed. Either the child goes through general therapy sessions that really don’t help the situation or they outright get ignored and told to just move on with their life.

I’ve often read that children lack the ability to even emotionally heal from the traumas they deal with as kids. I really believe this because I have personally gone through many traumas as a child, and I remember never truly understanding why things were happening to me or what to do about them. We are just not mature enough to process the emotions that we go through. Because of this, our health can suffer because most will start to repress these emotions. And we can actually STORE these emotions in the body! Generational trauma is also something else to continue- pain can travel through generations until someone is ready to deal with it.

But when it comes to health, we are all individuals. Because of this biochemical individuality, not everyone will do well with the same form of healing. Here is a big list of healing modalities – do what speaks to YOU!

Some great ways to help HEAL trauma

Mineral Balancing

It wasn’t until I learned about minerals that I started learning about how events in our childhood could influence our health. In HTMA and mineral balancing science, it is well known that traumatic situations (especially long term and unresolved) can wreak havoc on the body.  We start to get into that cycle of fight-or-flight that we cannot break out of and we burn through sodium, potassium, and many other minerals like crazy.  Eventually, these minerals start to tank and we are left in physical burnout that can lead to illnesses such as fibromyalgia, thyroid disorders, adrenal fatigue, autoimmune illnesses, and more. The trauma creates a stressful situation in the body and uses up our nutrients, which leads to a state of illness. This can be something that happens directly after an incident or something that takes decades to build up. (source).  Also, many of these minerals that we can become deficient in can lead to addictions as well, which further messes with our health and mineral balance.

Addressing your mineral imbalances can help to physically strengthen the body, which in turn will help you when you are ready to heal emotional trauma. Many people with severe adrenal exhaustion have reported that they attempted emotional healing techniques when they were still very physically weak and it ended up making them crash further. Depending on where you are in your health journey, you could be one that needs to work on building up physical strength first or you might need to start addressing the emotional before the physical side will even budge. 

There are many HTMA patterns that are common with those with prolonged trauma.  The most common thing we see is a calcium shell, where calcium can start to build up to extremely high levels (usually as it approaches 200 and above- normal levels are between 40-50). This can create a sort of defense mechanism, so the person dealing with chronic stress will be in an almost numb, apathetic state to help protect them from feeling all of the things they should be feeling during stress.  Those with calcium shells eventually feel this shell crack when they begin to heal, and they might have bouts of time where they experience the emotions that they used to hold in.

Homeopathy

Homeopathy is energy medicine and works deep to heal the whole body at once.  This means physical AND emotional issues can get healed. 

EMDR

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.  This is a “psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal. EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. ” (source)

EFT

Emotional Freedom technique is not new, but it has been garnering a lot of attention over the last few years in the natural health field. This method uses meridian tapping to harness your body’s energy to heal itself.  Many people swear by this method.  Doing EFT on your own can help too, but some only notice the benefit if they speak with a practitioner. YouTube has plenty of how-to videos too!

Retraining your mindset

For some people, it really is “mind over matter”.  Creating a healing mantra can help immensely. Something easy you can remember and repeat to yourself several times a day or just when things are getting rough is good.  Mine used to be, “I am happy, healthy, and whole.”  When we are constantly thinking about our pain or stress, it really can KEEP us in that physical state of illness.  In order to heal, we have to start thinking positive about everything: our situations, our bodies, the people in our life, and how we think (even if we don’t share our thoughts).  Sometimes we are the ones responsible for breaking the chain of negative thinking!

Myofascial Release Therapy

Myofascial Release is a safe and very effective hands-on technique that involves applying gentle sustained pressure into the Myofascial connective tissue restrictions to eliminate pain and restore motion.

Check out more here.

Other Ideas:

  • Art Therapy
  • Music Therapy
  • Talk therapy
  • Just making friends can be a helper, especially if you have become a bit withdrawn because of chronic illness
  • Dr. Caroline Leaf’s Brain Detox
  • Breathing methods like Buteyko
  • Yoga and meditation
  • Write a letter to your abusers, even if you never send it. Some even write something up and then destroy it!
  • Flower Essences
  • Cranial Sacral Therapy
  • Reiki
  • Acupuncture
  • Books like “Your Body Speaks your Mind“, “The Healing Codes

Just know that you are not alone in your healing.  There are plenty of people in your life that will help if you give them the chance (hopefully!).

Whatever method you choose to heal, I hope that you all find your peace <3

If Anyone Has Told You Your Emotions Are ‘Too Much,’ They’re Wrong

Telling someone they are “overreacting” or they should “lighten up” disconnects them from their emotional experience.

For the majority of highly sensitive people, our experience includes having strong emotions. Indeed, a common trait among HSPs is our ability to feel deeply, as this is adjacent to sensitivity. Unfortunately, many non-HSPs don’t quite comprehend the depths of our emotions, which can result in feeling misunderstood. 

While growing up, I repeatedly received the message that my emotions were “too much” — from people telling me that I was “overreacting” or to “lighten up” to shaming me for expressing my emotions and informing me that my feelings were “wrong.” Unsurprisingly, this type of rhetoric disconnects people from their emotional experience, and ultimately, ourselves as a whole.

HSPs, we deserve better. It is all too easy to be labeled as “too emotional,” given that we live in a society that doesn’t value emotions. Instead, “rationality” is largely considered to be the antithesis of being emotional, and is valued and placed on a pedestal. I can’t help but wonder: Is it actually rational to deny something so inherent to the human experience? 

6 Reasons Why Your Emotions Are Not ‘Too Much’ 

1. “You can’t heal what you don’t feel.”

Despite the misconception that emotions are superfluous, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Indeed, emotions aren’t just normal, they’re also healthy. There’s a popular saying in the world of psychotherapy that “you can’t heal what you don’t feel.” Essentially, this means that in order to adequately process and heal from a difficult experience, we need to allow ourselves to name, express, and of course, feel any and all emotions associated with that experience. 

A great example of this is from the Disney/Pixar movie Inside Out. At one point, Bing Bong, Riley’s former imaginary friend, becomes distraught after losing his rocket, prompting him to mourn his relationship with Riley. Once he’s able to reflect on why he’s feeling sad, express that sadness, and receive validation, his sadness begins to dissipate and he starts to feel better, allowing him to move on. Although a simplified example — we typically aren’t able to work through emotions quite this quickly — this does illustrate the importance of feeling our emotions in order to heal from life experiences. And since sensitive people feel on a deeper level than others, it may take us a bit longer to process things. 

2. Repressing emotions does not work.

The message we receive from society is, in order to prevent being seen as “too emotional,” we simply need to repress our emotions, as this is the “rational” approach to take. However, as you likely already know — either from personal experience or on an intuitive level — repressing our emotions doesn’t work. 

There’s a popular metaphor used in therapy: think of a beach ball floating on the surface of the water. What happens when you try to submerge the beach ball into the water? It doesn’t want to go down or stay down. Perhaps you’re able to keep it submerged for a bit, but it takes a lot of effort and struggle. Plus, the harder you try to keep the beach ball submerged, the greater force it’ll have when popping back up. This is the same for our emotions: we can try to repress them, but the more we do, the more we will struggle, and the more force they will reappear with. So it helps to avoid that struggle and simply allow your emotions to be.

Similarly, sometimes HSPs will try to numb their feelings through emotional buffering  — they’ll mask them through things like shopping, food, or even substance use. But this, too, is just trying to submerge the beach ball instead of dealing with it.

3. For better or worse, emotions help guide us.

As alluded to previously, the common argument against displaying emotions is that they can be considered to be the opposite of rationality. That is a grave misunderstanding of emotions and the benefits they bring us. 

You can think of emotions like signals we can use to navigate the roads of life. Firstly, we need to identify what the signal actually is. When we are able to recognize and label the emotion we are feeling, we can then process our emotions with more efficiency. Secondly, our emotions have purpose; each one has useful information we can use to help guide us. 

For example, sadness can mean that a need of ours is not being met; anger can indicate that our boundaries are being violated; fear can warn us against a potentially dangerous situation; guilt can help us learn from past mistakes and make amends; and happiness can keep us returning to something that promotes overall well-being. As a highly sensitive person, you may feel all these emotions more so than a non-HSP, which can add beauty and depth to your life. 

When we are connected to our emotional experience, we are better able to define our emotions. That way, we can then receive important knowledge about what steps to take in order to live our best possible lives.

4. Emotions allow us to be embodied.

Embodiment is the ability for us to fully feel into our bodies and be present with our experience. Embodiment also has many benefits, including better physical and mental health. Sounds simple, right? 

Unfortunately, we live in a world that frequently promotes the opposite of this. Feeling tired? You can sleep when you’re dead! Feeling hungry? Diet culture rewards you for that! Feeling pain during exercise? No pain, no gain! We receive messages that we are “weak” for listening to the important signals our bodies are trying to communicate to us: for getting enough sleep, eating when we’re hungry, and stopping exercise when we’re in pain.

It’s difficult, to say the least, to be embodied in a culture that tries to disconnect us from our bodies. Being with our emotions, however, can help bring us back to our bodies. Indeed, our emotions reside in our bodies. Have you noticed how your chest feels heavy when you’re sad? That your heart races when you’re scared? That you feel hot when you’re angry? Or even that you feel light when you’re happy? By recognizing our physical sensations, including those associated with our emotions, as they are happening, we are able to return to embodiment.

5. Emotions increase our self-knowledge.

As previously established, emotions are a basic component of the human experience. Therefore, when we deny our emotions, we in turn deny ourselves. Instead, when we can be with our emotions — something we HSPs are naturally good at anyway, given our intuitive abilities — we can better recognize them. And then, we can comprehend how to approach them healthfully, both within ourselves and others. This is what research psychologist Daniel Goleman defines as “emotional intelligence.” 

Although allowing yourself to feel your emotions does not automatically equate to emotional intelligence, it’s a step in the right direction. Conversely, we move further away from emotional intelligence when we attempt to repress our emotions. This not only makes the experience of being with our feelings less familiar, but it also sends the message that feeling our emotions is unsafe.   

6. Only you know your own experience.

The fact of the matter is — you are the only one living your life. Therefore, you are the only one who knows your experience. Only you can determine your emotional reality. Therefore, when others accuse you of being “too emotional,” this is gaslighting, which is when the other person uses a form of manipulation that makes you question your sanity or your version of things. In this particular situation, the gaslighting by the other person is typically rooted in an effort to make themselves feel more comfortable. 

However, dear reader, you do not have to censor yourself for the sake of others. It’s okay to have a lot of feelings and to express those feelings — don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You are the author of your story and you alone are the expert on your experience.

A Note on Emotional Response vs. Reaction

When discussing our experience of emotions, it’s important to distinguish between an emotional response vs. an emotional reaction, in addition to the emotion itself. Emotions are a feeling and state of being (i.e., happiness, sadness, anger, jealousy, etc.). When we describe HSPs as “deep feelers,” this means we feel our emotions more strongly and more frequently than non-HSPs. There’s no action inherent in emotions. The proceeding action can be either a response or a reaction. A response is using data from the emotion to make an informed decision; a reaction, on the other hand, is being overtaken by that emotion. 

Let’s illustrate this with an example: You are having a conversation with someone, when all of a sudden it turns sour. The other individual turns to rudeness and insults you. Most likely, you would be experiencing the emotion of anger in this situation. An emotional response would be to inform that individual what they said was wrong and hurtful, and that you will not be engaging with them if they continue to treat you poorly, i.e., using the signal from your anger to rectify the situation thoughtfully.

Conversely, an emotional reaction might include insulting the other person back, storming out of the room and slamming the door, or turning to physical violence, i.e., being controlled by your anger. As we can see here, it’s not the emotion of anger that’s wrong, but rather, how that anger overtakes you. However, since we HSPs are deep processors, we are more likely to take our time to respond rather than react immediately (yet another benefit of being a sensitive person!).

Emotions are not only normal — they’re also important. Our society undervalues emotions and doesn’t understand that by feeling deeply, we are not “too emotional,” but in fact are experiencing an essential part of life. So, fellow HSP, I urge you to continue to feel your emotions, express your emotions, and be that deep feeler that you are. It’s a beautiful thing.

With love,

A Fellow HSP.